RICHMOND, Va. — The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Virginia filed a lawsuit against the Gloucester County School Board for adopting a discriminatory bathroom policy that segregates transgender students from their peers. The policy effectively expels trans students from communal restrooms and requires them to use "alternative private" restroom facilities.
The case was filed on behalf of Gavin Grimm, a transgender male student at Gloucester High School who will begin his junior year this fall. The lawsuit argues the bathroom policy is unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment and violates Title IX of the U.S. Education Amendments of 1972, a federal law prohibiting sex discrimination by schools.
"The school board's policy is deeply stigmatizing and needlessly cruel," said Joshua Block, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and HIV Project. "Any student —transgender or not — should be free to use single-stall restrooms if they want extra privacy. Instead of protecting the privacy of all students, the school board has chosen to single out transgender students as unfit to use the same restrooms as everyone else."
As part of Gavin's medical treatment for severe gender dysphoria, Gavin and his mother notified administrators of his male gender identity at the beginning of his sophomore year so that he could socially transition in all aspects of his life. With permission from school administrators, Gavin used the boys' restroom for almost two months without any incident. But after receiving complaints from some parents and residents of Gloucester County, the school board adopted the new policy on December 9, 2014, by a vote of 6-1, despite warnings from the ACLU.
"I just want to use the restroom in peace," said Gavin. "Since the school board passed this policy I feel singled out and humiliated every time I need to use the restroom."
A motion for preliminary injunction has been filed to ensure that the court rules in time for Gavin to be able to use the same restroom as other boys at Gloucester High School when classes resume for the 2016 school year.
"High school is difficult enough for any student without having the school board publicly single him out for special restroom rules," said Rebecca Glenberg, legal director of the ACLU of Virginia. "Gavin is an extraordinarily courageous boy who is filing this lawsuit not only to protect his own rights, but the rights of all of the transgender students who come after him. We are proud to represent him."
The ACLU previously filed a federal discrimination complaint with the Department of Justice and Department of Education in December 2014. The investigation remains ongoing.